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Living Colour Rocks Sparse Crowd at The Independent

With a small crowd, one might have excused Living Colour if the band toned down its usual energetic hard rock performance for something a little less intense. But true to its reputation as a powerhouse live act, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based group delivered a blistering 90-minute set on Oct. 17, at The Independent in San Francisco.

Kicking things off with the up-tempo rocker and fan-favorite, "Middle Man," from Living Colour's debut 1988 release Vivid, the band was fired up from the get-go and showed no signs of letdown. Next came the crowd-pleaser, "Ignorance is Bliss," from the 1993 album, Stain, followed by a display of the band's funkier side with the racially-charged "Funny Vibe."

The band, made up of drummer Will Calhoun, singer Corey Glover, guitarist Vernon Reid and bassist Doug Wimbish, then switched gears, moving into its newer material from its 2009 offering, The Chair in the Doorway. To their credit, despite its size, the audience rocked with the best of them, singing the words back to Glover and headbanging to the fresher material, which included "Decadance," "Burned Bridges," the title track and "Bless Those."

Known for his sense of humor, Glover, with a wry smile called out for fans to support Prop. 19, the statewide ballot initiative in California which would legalize various marijuana-related activities, after catching a whiff of smoke from the crowd. Further, keenly aware of the rivalry between fans hailing from Oakland and those from San Francisco, Glover incited the crowd to tell him what cities they were representing, before jokingly adding that they did not want any turf wars in the house.

Fans were united, however, for Living Colour's more experimental side. Prior to "Memories Can't Wait," Reid, Wimbish and Calhoun indulged in a bluesy jam session that showcased the musicians' skill and ability to play off one another, which received a thunderous applause. The group also extended the song "Elvis is Dead" with a lengthy teaser of the King's "Hound Dog," while Calhoun also got the spotlight with an eclectic drum solo spot.

As expected, Living Colour ended its main set with its electrifying signature hit, "Cult of Personality," before coming out for an encore of "Time's Up," the title track from its second album. A cover of "Crosstown Traffic" by Jimi Hendrix was listed to follow, but was not performed.

Strangely, for the first time as a single headliner in the Bay Area since Living Colour reunited in 2001, the band failed to play for at least two hours, which was a letdown, given the group's usual tendency to go well beyond the two-hour mark. That said, Living Colour graciously took the time after the gig to meet and take pictures with the fans for more than an hour, which admittedly took the sting off the shorter set time.

Against the Girl, a three-piece, jazz-oriented, pop/progressive band which features Wimbish on bass, opened the show with a mesmerizing 30-minute set and is well worth checking out.

Set list: Middle Man, Ignorance is Bliss, Funny Vibe, Decadance, The Chair, Burned Bridges, Memories Can't Wait, Open Letter (to a Landlord), Glamour Boys, Bless Those, Loves Rears Its Ugly Head, Elvis is Dead, Type, Cult of Personality, Time's Up.

Living Colour (with Against the Girl)
Oct. 17, 2010
The Independent
San Francisco, Calif.

- Brian Heaton

Living Colour, live, Oct. 17, 2010

Corey Glover of Living Colour at The Independent
in San Francisco, Calif. (Brian Heaton/Oct. 17, 2010)

Living Colour, live, Oct. 17, 2010

Living Colour perform "Middle Man," at The Independent
in San Francisco, Calif. (Brian Heaton/Oct. 17, 2010)

Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.